Funimation Discusses Leaked Episodes

by Christopher Macdonald, Jun 5th 2009

FUNimation Entertainment has had a bad month and half. First they accidentally preempted the Japanese broadcast of Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ episode 4, then episode 403 of One Piece was leaked onto the Internet, again ahead of the Japanese broadcast, and finally the latest episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was leaked, but at least not until after the Japanese broadcast.

Funimation has since been heavily criticized by the online anime community, in ANN's forums and elsewhere, even by sympathetic individuals, for virtually non-existent security.

Funimation CEO Gen Fukunaga spoke with us today regarding the leaked episodes, what Funimation is doing to fix the problem, and how the problem affects the future of online streaming anime.

ANN: Could you explain the situation?

Following the leak of One Piece episode 403 we have been focused on protecting all of our partners' video content by improving security -- both internally and externally. While implementing new processes, we continued moving forward with providing the content that was scheduled. It was during this transition that the new Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Phantom files were accessed before their scheduled launch. After going over the sequence of events, we know that human error and flaws in our internal processes are ultimately to blame.

ANN: You know who leaked One Piece; how far are you willing to take this matter legally?

The preempting of this content is not only an invasion but a violation of law and it is a matter we take seriously. We have identified the person(s) who we believe is responsible for the downloading and subsequent distribution of this episode. Regardless of the means by which they gained access to the files, the person(s) responsible understood that they were stealing the file and that it was wrong to do so. We do intend to pursue legal action.

ANN: How are you going to deal with the potential comparison that people may make between your legal actions and the RIAA ?

The RIAA typically went after individuals who downloaded the content. Our focus is to enforce our rights by notifying the groups which distribute the infringing content (torrent sites, fansub groups, IRC, illegal anime streaming/downloading sites, counterfeit DVDs sellers.)

ANN: There is a specific group, not a fansub group although comprised of individuals from fansub groups, that is actively copying streaming episodes from Funimation and Crunchyroll and making them available online via bittorrent. How do you plan to deal with groups and individuals like these?

We aren't going to call out any specific group. Such groups generally operate undercover. Only handle names are given and groups like to keep their secrets. It is difficult to track these groups down, but not impossible. We are currently gathering evidence against any group involved in this practice and are taking the necessary steps for enforcement of our rights. However, our number one goal has been, and will continue to be, providing the content our fans want to see -- the best anime from Japan, professionally produced and available for free, legally and online.

ANN: what are you doing on tech and operational levels to keep this from happening again?

We are reevaluating our internal processes. Moving forward, FUNimation will not upload a video file until minutes before the video is expected to go live. For episodes we are simulcasting, we will not upload the video file until after broadcast in Japan and a designated staffer will verify the video is uploaded and functional.

We know that many of you have questions about what specific technical changes will be taking place but following what we have experienced this week, we will be keeping that information confidential. I can tell you that we are enhancing our security and will be applying the newest technology to protect our files.

ANN: Episodes of Phantom started leaking early as of episode 6, why wasn't the issue addressed sooner?

Yes, that is what we now understand. Our investigation should reveal additional information regarding how and when Phantom episode 6 may have been accessed and we'll go from there.

ANN: What kind of impact will this have on the North American anime streaming market, for Funimation and in general?

It could have a serious and significant impact. Overall, this event and the continuing problem of the illegal download and distribution of anime series could make many licensors resistant to the simulcast of their series. We understand how serious a concern these leaks are for our Japanese partners- to the broadcasters, sponsors, and consortium members. We are confident that we have implemented changes which address the security issues, but we must work to regain their trust. We hope that our partners understand that we share the same goal: act in the best interests of the original creators of each intellectual property we license, and that includes ensuring that our industry has a commercial future in North America and other English-speaking countries.


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